Visual VoiceMail Pulled from Android Market Due to Terms of Service Violation

February 25, 2011
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In an action that at first has appeared to be a move by Google to send a message to developers that it doesn't want in-app payments to be processed outside of Google Checkout, popular app Visual VoiceMail has been pulled from the Android Marketplace. This app has around one million downloads at the moment, thusly it's begun to garner some attention from users. The particular articles it seems to have not followed as closely as it should have are inside section 3.3 of the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement, covering pricing and payments.

In the section in question, Google notes that "If you want to collect fees after the free trial expires, you must collect all fees for the full version of the Product through the Payment Processor on the Market. In this Agreement, “free” means there are no charges or fees of any kind for use of the Product. All fees received by Developers for Products distributed via the Market must be processed by the Market’s Payment Processor." Jonathan Hollander, EVP of PhoneFusion, the group that puts out Visual VoiceMail, is confused at how the app has just been taken down now since the app has not gone through any major changes anytime recently save for a tiny bug fix a couple weeks ago.

Visual VoiceMail is one of the wide array of Android apps that is free to download but requires in-app payments for certain actions. For Visual VoiceMail, those actions are "premium" options like voicemail transcription, the ability to receive faxes through a dedicated number, and ad-free service. PhoneFusion accepts payments via its own website in a manner very similar to how Amazon links to its own site to process Kindle app payments.

Google has released a statement on the subject, saying that they "remove applications from Android Market that violate our terms of service," pointing questioners toward the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement and Android Market Developer Program Policies. Is this the same sort of situation that got Kongregate in trouble all those weeks ago?

The striking thing about this whole situation, or one of the striking things, is that PhoneFusion was given no warning by Google that its app would be pulled, nor did Google let them know the specific information about the violations incurred. Hollander notes the following: There was no warning that they’re going to enforce this, which make it worse than Apple. Even if you disagree with Apple, they gave until June to remove their apps. Here, there’s no choice.” He's of course referring to Apple's recent guideline change on similar matters. Is Google being too harsh?

[via Business Insider]


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  • Same as

    “make it worse than Apple”

    How exactly? Because Google didn’t catch the infraction in the first place or because PhoneFusion didn’t follow the rules?

    This isn’t a case where Google changed the rules and therefore give developers time to change their apps. This is a situation in which an app was breaking the rules but wasn’t caught. Apple would pull an app in that same situation without notice also.

    • http://twitter.com/Google_Blogger Ben Lewis (BLewis)

      The only thing I don’t understand is why they did what they did, they used payments to upgrade to a full app from their own website. That is just true exploitation of the Android Market. It offers you a framework and infrastructure to serve apps on condition that you share your profits. I can’t even see any reason why they don’t follow the pattern all of the other android devs have which is to post two apps, one free test and one full paid and to link to the paid from the free so that Google earns. I don’t see it being a subscription. It is not like Amazon MP3, Amazon Kindle, Nook or any other services which offer things over the internet, since they don’t use Google’s infrastructure to serve that, they use their own servers to serve additional content at their cost and therefore they take the full cost from the user.